A retired minister in Lexington, Kentucky shouldn’t have had this much impact.
But I owe Wayne Smith my life.
At the very least, I owe him for my wife. And that's just one of the reasons I mourn his passing.
In 1972, Wayne had a vision for a new church in Lexington and convinced Wally Rendel to lead it. Wayne helped Wally and his wife, Barbara, start the Southern Acres Christian Church. That church was in the same neighborhood where my wife’s parents moved to as newlyweds; even though they were both raised Baptist, they decided to raise their family at this nearby Bible-teaching church. When it was time for my wife to go to college, she chose to attend Wally and Wayne’s alma mater: Cincinnati Christian University.
That’s where Kelly and I met.
And we might never have been able to attend CCU if it wasn’t for Wayne. He was the greatest advocate CCU has ever known and always showed up when the school was in need. In my opinion, if it were not for Wayne's passion for his alma mater, CCU wouldn’t exist today.
So without Wayne, my whole life is different.
Although I can’t say we were close (we met about a dozen times over the years), Wayne and I had much in common. We both hail from Cincinnati’s westside. And both our families trace our involvement in the Christian Churches through CCU professor Dan Eynon, who called on my dad’s family to join his church about twenty years after he called on the Smith’s to do the same. But the most central connection is that we both Wayne and I accepted the call to minister and developed that calling at CCU.
I admire the way he ministered.
It wasn’t really about his preaching. While he wasn’t the most accomplished speaker, he definitely made up for it with humor. Even though his jokes were horribly corny, Wayne was unquestionably hilarious. He had a way of boisterously laughing at himself right after delivering the punchline; his dynamic personality made you buy in. And when he got serious, he always had the perfect poem or anecdote to drive the point home.
But rather than preaching, it was his pastoring that inspired me.
Knowing quite a few people he touched in Lexington, Wayne was a tireless shepherd. Even though he ministered to a large congregation, he was always in people’s living rooms. He’ll long be remembered for the buckets of chicken he’d take to people who lost loved ones.
Wayne's pastoring made his sermons powerful to those people.
In an era of performance preaching, today’s generation of ministers struggle to understand that there are many ways to build a vibrant congregation. Wayne Smith was able to do so because he was passionate about people—not just speaking at them, but listening to them. The result of his life’s work is amazing.
Wayne always felt ordinary yet God used him to accomplish the extraordinary.
His legacy isn’t books or buildings or budgets; it’s souls saved.
The world is better because he was here.
Thank you, Wayne, for all you’ve done for me and countless others. I’m excited you have a new audience for your jokes in heaven; keep ‘em laughing.
Wayne wrote the above inscription to me in his biography (do yourself a favor and track down a copy of that book written by my friend Rod Huron).